ATTENTION & LOVE
The purpose of the February monthly challenge is to increase wellness in ourselves and in our community through learning more about attention. When you offer yourself and others your full attention, on purpose, without judgment, this creates more authentic and loving individual and community connection and wellness. Since attention is a form of love, it makes sense that we should “pay attention to it” during the month of Valentines! We begin the year of workshops and monthly challenges with the theme of attention because it is foundational for health and wellness. Future workshops and challenges throughout 2023 will build on attention.
Over the course of February, complete as many attention activities as possible, record your progress in a journal, and share your experiences with other participants on Saturday, 2/26, after the 9:30 am class. The winner will be selected based on the highest level of participation/completion of most activities. A second place winner will be drawn from the pool of participants.
START: FEB 4th. After the 9:30 am class, attend the Workshop on Attention.
At this workshop, you will be given information about attention, directions for participating, and how to complete the activities, and materials to complete the challenge. If you cannot attend, the workshop will be recorded and posted here online and challenge activities/materials will be available at the front desk– join the challenge any time for wellness benefits!
END: FEB 25th. After the 9:30 am class, we will gather together to share our experiences with the attention challenge. A winner will be selected based on the highest level of participation. A second place winner will be drawn from the pool of participants. You must be present to win!
Journaling About Attention as a Form of Love
The journal can be voice to text or written using your phone or tablet or PC. You can also use a notebook, paper and pen or pencil. It must be somehow visible to others as evidence that you participated in the challenge!
“Write about” means briefly describe your experience and/or situation. Writing about attention is a concrete demonstration of your engagement with learning about attention that you can share at the end of the challenge if you choose!
Paying attention to others.
Observe other people paying attention, in the studio or in a class. Describe what “paying attention” appears to look like to you.
Observe other people in the studio, outside of class, paying attention to one another. Can you spot what attention looks like? Describe how “paying attention” appears to you.
List three different situations where you gave someone else at the studio your undivided attention.
Write about one example of when you listened to another member without thinking about what you wanted to say next (just listened with full attention).
Write about an example of when you felt like giving advice or help solve someone’s problem but did not; you simply paid attention as the primary way to help instead.
Write one example of when you looked another member in the eye and made safe and welcoming eye contact. (You paid attention on purpose to authentically connect.)
Write about one example where you observed another studio members’ body language that indicated that they were mindfully attending (really paying attention) to someone else.
Write about a time when you noticed someone else who seemed to be struggling to pay attention. How could you tell? How did it make you feel?
Write about a time where you experienced positive emotion from having paid attention to someone else at the studio.
Write about a time where you experienced positive emotion from having received attention from someone else at the studio.
Paying attention to self.
Write about your experience in a class at the studio where you paid careful attention to your attention (without interpreting or judging… just attention). What was that like?
Write about a time where you experienced positive emotion from having paid kind and loving attention to yourself during a yoga class (yin or Bikram).
Write about a time when you paid attention to your body’s signals or “felt experiences” during a savasana (without judgment, just attention).
Write about a time when you paid attention to inner sensations or thoughts in the Bikram Yoga series and held them in attention without judgment or attaching any meaning to them.
Write about when something “grabbed” your attention. How long did it “grip” your attention? Reflect about why and how this happened.
Write about a time when you paid attention to sensations within your body when interacting with or being in close proximity to another person or while in a group during a class at the studio.
Write about a time when you felt truly seen and heard by another person at the studio who paid undivided attention to you.
Write about a time when you felt connected within yourself for having paid attention to yourself without critical or negative judgment.
Write about how music impacted your attention in an IHP class.
Write about how music impacted your attention in a yin class.
Write about how physical movement influenced your attention in a yin class.
Write about how physical movement influenced your attention in a Bikram class.
Write about how physical movement influenced your attention in an IHP class.
Write about how stillness and relaxation impacted your attention in a Bikram class.
Write about how stillness and relaxation impacted your attention in a yin class.
Write about how breathing patterns impact your attention.
Write about a time when you noticed your attention was selective, limited, or narrowed.
Write about a time when you noticed your attention was wide and panoramic.
Write about a time when you noticed that your attention span waned during a yoga class.
Write about a time when you noticed that you felt fatigued or tired from paying attention in a Bikram class or IHP class.
Write about a time when you showed yourself compassion when you lost your capacity to pay attention without judgment (maybe you noticed harsh self-judgment?) in a class.
Write about a time when you showed yourself compassion when you felt distracted or struggled to pay attention in or outside of class at the studio.
Write about a time when you got lost in thought or mind-wandering
Write about a time when you noticed yourself refocusing your attention to your breath or some part of your body.
Write about something important you learned about yourself by observing your attention in this challenge.
Write about something important you learned about yourself by talking to another person/people at the studio about attention.
Option B: The Attention Audit
“Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.”
There are no “rights” or “wrongs” about how your attention functions. Just notice your own attention and get more familiar with how it behaves to learn more and more about ways to harness it for your wellness. When you become the authority of your own attention, you will be less likely to allow others to dominate or control it.
Notice your own attention throughout a day or several days. Act as if you are a journalist following a stranger to write a story about their attention: where it goes and how it is managed intentionally or not. Use your journal (or whatever tool is handy) to make notes throughout the day. You can reflect back over your day or every few hours, but memory isn’t as accurate as intentionally keeping track continually and writing about your attention over a period of hours or a day or two.
This will be challenging since our attention switches and moves frequently. You are trying to notice periods of extended attention versus relatively brief periods, rather than tracking moment to moment. This audit can be repeated often. There’s no wrong way to do it. You will learn merely from trying (and failing) to do these activities.
Use your written notes and memory to honestly and accurately answer the following in your journal:
Where is your attention pointed most of the time? (If you kept track of how long you pay attention to things, you can write about that.)
To which objects is your attention directed regularly or most often?
What captures or grips your attention in the environment? Any ideas about why it grips you?
Are the things that you are paying attention to healthy or harmful to you?
Describe for yourself, in detail, why each is helpful or harmful or a combination.
Is there a pattern or repetition involved in what you pay attention to?
Evaluate, and ask yourself: what’s serving me and what’s wasting my precious attention? WRITE IT DOWN! (Make a two-column list, Venn Diagram)
How much and how often were you distracted? What kinds of distractions cause you to lose your focus? Hypothesize about why. Don’t be harshly critical and judgmental. Be objective and pragmatic to learn more.
Based on your attention, what captures and keeps your sustained attention?
How do you control your attention? How do you keep the spotlight on something continually, without intermission or interruption?
What things that you find your attention on so often matter most to you?
What does your attention tell or teach you about what you value?
Did you find yourself judging yourself (negatively or positively) while conducting your audit? If so, write down the judgments.
Note the difference between attention and judgment.
Option C: Attention Sucks
Go online and scroll through social media like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to notice what gets your attention and holds it enough to pause and linger (maybe a slow count to five seconds or more), and what does not. Think about why some things are interesting and keep your attention and which things do not and why. Write about this experience.
What did you learn about your own attention?
What about your self-control or management of attention—what was that like?
You may have to repeat this exercise to improve your learning about attention.
Option D. Strengthening Attention via Listening
Listen carefully to a podcast of your choice. Notice the length of time you are able to stay focused without distraction. Make a note in your journal each time you are distracted, maybe by physical distractions like hunger or thirst or having to go the bathroom. Maybe your mind wanders. Just make a note or check mark on a page in your journal each time you lose focus on the podcast. See how long you can listen, and practice keeping your attention on the conversation. Do it for as long or as little as you like.
The only way to build the muscle of attention is to practice. Practice as intentionally as possible, as often as possible. That means mistakes all the time! Notice over time how the length and capacity of your focus increases. (Perhaps fewer check marks during same period of time?)
Repeat this activity as often as possible with podcasts of your choice or even randomly selected material that may not be as engaging, so that you can see the difference in your ability to pay attention when listening to what you may like versus what you don’t. (Our attention is challenged when we are uncomfortable, yet this is an even better opportunity to strengthen it!)
Option E. Attention or Judgment?
It’s worth practicing listening to what’s annoying or to opinions and ideas that conflict (even sharply) with your own, to build your endurance for paying attention and increasing your tolerance for listening without critical judgment, especially when it’s challenging. You will see, again, the difference between attention and judgment and why the difference is crucial to your level of stress, wisdom, and wellness.
A. Listen carefully to a person for a short period of time at first and then longer and longer. Try to speak as little as possible. Just listen as intently as you are able, for as long as you are able. Repeat this activity as often as possible and write about your experience.
NOTE: If you repeat this often enough, notice how your relationships improve. One of the first things I noticed after I began practicing Bikram Yoga regularly was how much my attention improved as well as my ability to pay better attention to my students. I began interrupting people less which was one of my most annoying habits! I am still a work in progress, and so are you!
B. Using a podcast to practice mindful listening allows you to participate in a conversation without speaking or interrupting, perhaps building your “listening muscle,” so that you listen more, speak less, and interrupt people less often in interpersonal, real world face to face conversations. In Bikram Yoga class, we say “eyes open and mouth closed,” useful advice not only for yoga practice but for daily living!
You may notice over time that you are increasing your ability to be present in the moment through paying attention. You may even experience a sense of “flow” as you get so deeply engrossed in listening that you lose track of time (whether to an audio recording or in person with another human being).
Rather than immediately judging or acting to change something, you are practicing “being in the moment” more than “doing” in an almost effortless, stress-less state of equanimity. This is wonderful for your health and will be contagious for the people around you.
Option F: Attention, Values, & Passion
When you own your own attention and control it, you will become more consciously aware of exactly what it is you are aiming at, focused on, believe in, and live by. Attention is linked to your values, thereby directly linked to your priorities, goals, actions, and habits.
Part 1: Establish your baseline knowledge about yourself and your attention by writing a quick list of what you think you pay attention to the most in your life. Spend only a few minutes on this and move on to part 2.
Part 2. Watch yourself for a day, a week, or over the month and keep a list of the things you pay attention to. This is similar to the Attention Audit Challenge above. Make a written list on your phone or in your journal, or use the example form given, but WRITE your observations down (as if you were a scientist collecting data). You won’t be accurate with your data if you rely on only your memory. The log is to collect information about yourself. Keep track once an hour, or at the end of the day, and at periods that work for you throughout your day(s).
Don’t make it a chore so much as a curious activity that you are doing because you care about yourself and you want to learn more about yourself. Your ultimate motivation for spending the time doing this is to be healthier and well by knowing yourself better.
Understanding your own attention and the things you pay attention to will help you define what you are aiming at in life— what may or may not give it real purpose. To know what matters to you (your values) will be especially important when you are struggling with problems in your life. You have to have something to get out of bed in the morning for, something that makes sacrifice and struggle worthwhile, so that it doesn’t merely destroy you. You need something to live for—a “why” to bear any “how,” in the words of the famous philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.
One of the benefits of studying your own attention to learn about what you are aiming at is that you will be able to come back to this lesson, use what you have learned to help yourself, change your focus, choose the best goals and aims possible for your wellness and thereby manage your problems to improve your life!
Make studying your own attention and learning about your values fun. Keep your sense of curiosity, compassion, and humor toward your self-study and what you discover about your attention. By paying attention to attention, you may find that your passion, love, and interests find you more often than you seek and find them!
Example: Attention Data Graphic Organizer
|Thing(s) I pay attention to||Time of day/length of time
Part 3. Your list/log/chart should show the things you pay attention to.
Using your forms and your notes, evaluate your findings.
Look for patterns and repetition in your log/notes.
Which things in your life get the most attention?
Which things get the least amount of attention?
|Things in your life getting the MOST attention||Note which things makes me feel either bad/weak/worse or makes me feel good/strong/better||Things in your life getting the LEAST attention|
|Sample: playing video games||Good for a while, but then bad later because I spent too much time and not enough on other things I enjoy or should be doing that make me feel good|
|Makes me feel good, strong because I feel independent; but also a little bad because we are losing a connection; maybe relationship is weaker.||Sample: spending time with my family|
|Wrestling and all things related– watching videos and reading about it and talking with fellow wrestlers.||Makes me feel strong, better. I learn more about it from watching videos and reading books about it too, This is my passion and important to me. It makes me happy even though it’s challenging, and I have to give up spending my time and attention on other things I might also like to do.|
Part 4. Reflect and Write about your findings:
What do you think about your data? What conclusions can you draw?
How do you feel about where you are and are not spending your valuable attention?
Are you judging yourself or learning with compassion and curiosity about your attention?
What was the collection of the data process like for you?
Did the activity confirm things you already knew about your attention?
Did you learn something new about where you place your attention?
Did you learn that you thought you knew yourself but now realize that there’s still more to learn? (There always is and always will be!)
Do you see any places/time where your attention was being manipulated by others? If so, could you act to change that?
How might you control and/or make choices about where to put your attention?